New methods to aid research into the causes of diabetes

Babraham Institute scientists are developing new methods to aid research into the causes of diabetes, a condition suffered by around 2.5 million people in the UK.

A new study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, describes an effective model of a rare form of the disease called transient neonatal diabetes mellitus (TNDM), which affects approximately 1 in 600,000 newborn babies.

Babies born with TNDM initially cannot produce insulin, but symptoms disappear after about 3 months. However two-thirds of those affected will develop diabetes later in life, usually in their teens.

The mouse model, developed by the research group headed by Dr Gavin Kelsey, shows disappearing and reappearing diabetes similar to that seen in TDNM, and makes the examination of the faulty insulin-producing cells of the pancreas much more straightforward. A reduction in the levels of several key chemicals involved in the development of the pancreas has already been shown.

Dr Kelsey comments “Although a rare form of diabetes, TNDM is important to our understanding of diabetes because the defective gene has been identified. A model for TNDM, such as the one produced at Babraham, will allow us to study in detail the problems that arise in the insulin-producing cells when this defective gene is expressed.”

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